In high school, all of your friends lived in the same town as you, so it was super easy to meet up and get lunch with them over break. However, in college it’s totally different. Sometimes your college friends live halfway across the country, while others are fortunate enough to live only a few hours away. I’m lucky enough that one of my friends lives only a few hours away. So we decided to meet halfway to spend an afternoon catching up!
We met up at another one of my favorite places to grab a bite in Columbia, Uprise Bakery. Uprise serves a wide array of sandwiches, soups, specialty drinks, and the usual bakery pastries. I settled on a half broccoli cheddar soup, and PB&J sandwich, with a cappuccino and a chocolate chip cookie for dessert. The food was great (of course), but it was even greater to catch up with my friend who I hadn’t seen in weeks. College is weird like that. You get so used to seeing your friends daily, so when you don’t see them for a few days over break everything just seems sort of off.
It’s been super cold in Missouri right now. I’m talking 2-5 degrees with negative degree windchills. So obviously my friend and I didn’t want to spend any more time outside than absolutely necessary. Logically, we headed to one of my favorite local wineries, Les Bourgeois (I’ve been here a few times, including back in October). My friend and I had (another) wine tasting. This time around I sampled the Moscato, Winter White, and Traminette. My favorite was definitely the Winter White! I guess you could say that I am coming around to white wine after all! It was so fun drinking wine in front of a cozy fire!
Oh, how I love gigantic paintings! At more than 12 by 16 feet, The Death of Sardanapalus does not disappoint. The work itself is based on the historical tale of the last Assyrian king, Sardanapalus. According to legend, upon hearing the news of invaders in his capital city, the King decided that he would destroy his Earthly possessions instead of facing a humiliating defeat. Not only were his possessions burned, but so were his slaves and concubines as well. Sardanapalus knew that he would place himself upon the funerary pyre upon its completion.
Delacroix depicted this tale in its final moments. He captured as much destruction and chaos as possible, which is characteristic of the Romanticism style that this work was painted in. Beyond the pandemonium pictured, we see the main action of the painting taking place atop a large red bed. Figures are depicted in various disarray. One man wrangles one of the horses, while another lies at the foot of who we assume to be Sardanapalus. Trinkets surround the figures, indicating the wealth of Sardanapalus.
When Delacroix first exhibited The Death of Sardanapalus in 1828, the reviews were not stellar. This was primarily due to the fact that it wasn’t a traditional neoclassical painting with a clear hero. In fact, this work was quite literally the opposite with Sardanapalus playing the role of the anti-hero.
During the spring semester of my sophomore year, I took my very first art history class. As the semester was coming to a close, we began discussing modern and contemporary art. One day of class was entirely devoted to what appeared to be the professor’s favorite artists – Mark Rothko. Viewing for the first time on a smart board, Rothko’s work appeared to be a haphazard painting of rectangles in a similar color palette. The professor, however, felt much different about this work. He gave us a short anecdote about how the first time he saw a Rothko in person. He was apparently so moved that he couldn’t help but tear up in the museum. Unbeknownst to me at the time, moving viewers to tears was sometimes the goal of Rothko’s artistic vision.
Rothko moved through a variety of different styles that were influenced by abstract expressionism and specifically color field painting. Color field painting, coined by Clement Greenberg, was a trend within abstract expressionism which disregarded the need for figures. Instead, the movement, pioneered by Rothko, took advantages of large swatches of color which was used to envelop the viewer in a world of color.
I go to college in a tiny town in northern Missouri. Kirksville is home to three colleges, but there still aren’t many non-school sanctioned activities to do in town. One of the most common pastimes for Truman students is going to a bridge outside of town known as train bridge, where, you guessed it, trains cross. Sure, there are great views of the nighttime sky at train bridge, but train watching is a strange hobby for college students. However, a little more than an hour north of lovely Kirksville is another small town called Eldon, Iowa. Eldon is home to the Dibble House, which is most famous for being the backdrop to one of the most famous American paintings of the 20th century – American Gothic. This painting also launched Grant Wood as one of the pioneers of the American Regionalist movement. The Regionalist movement aimed to represent America as it truly was, without the cosmopolitan cities. Because of this, art like Wood’s resounded with the Midwestern population because for the first time the Regionalist movement was for them rather than for those living on either coast.
The artist, Grant Wood, is a native Iowan himself, and he found himself in Eldon where he found the farmhouse which he painted in his his most famous work. The farmhouse was built in the style of carpenter gothic. In North America, home carpenters used the abundance of wood around them to construct arches and towers reminiscent of the European Gothic style. By painting this home, Wood recognized the family home as being the physical symbol of the family which resonated with many at the time of its publication.
He used his sister, and his dentist as models and painted them in clothes resembling what he saw in his old family photo albums. Although the two figures appear together in Wood’s painting, the two never sat together for their portraits to be painted. Instead, Wood worked with them individually and created sketches which he used to craft American Gothic. Their posing resembles that of the Northern Renaissance Style probably because Wood had previously studied art in Europe. And was particularly interested in the works of Jan van Eyck like the Arnolfini Portrait pictured below. The Arnolfini Portrait pictured below also deals with domesticity in portrait form, which Wood may have drawn inspiration from.
At first glance, Wood’s painting seems to truly represent what life in the Midwest may have been like during the 19th century. However, scholars have debated alternate meanings, and suggested satirical explanations for the seemingly odd composition.
The St. Louis Art Museum is one of the most prominent art museums in my area. They’re known for their Asian pieces (my favorites are their pottery collection), as well as their classic and modern collection (they have a really great Van Gogh collection). However, the museum is huge and there is no way to cover the entire museum in a single blog post. Instead, I’ll be discussing a small part of SLAM’s collection. This exhibition is known as A Century of Japanese Prints.
The collection consists of works from SLAM’s modern and contemporary collection, many of which have never been displayed before. In 2016, SLAM exhibited a collection called Conflicts of Interest. This exhibition was able to be displayed due to a generous donation of 1,400 prints to SLAM. Conflicts of Interest focused on Meiji-era military art. The A Century of Japanese Prints exhibit, however, focused on civil works and creative printmaking.
The exhibit tracks the influence of the West on traditional Japanese woodblock printmaking, and how the creativity of the artists developed overtime. This mimics the shift in the modernization of the ideology after the Meiji period, which wanted to rejuvenated the culture and industry of Japan. Below, you can check out one of my favorite prints that were on display. This exhibit closes on January 28, 2018, so go and check it out while you still can!
I think that it’s so cool that SLAM has the centerpiece of one of Monet’s triptychs from his famous water lilies series (the other two pieces can be found at the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art). Known as the Agapanthus Triptych, these three paintings were united briefly in 2011 at the Nelson-Atkins, in 2012 at SLAM, and then in 2015 at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to see the triptych together, but I have spent some time admiring the central piece located at SLAM.
Visually, we see clumps of water lilies floating atop a blue and violet toned waterscape. Towards the bottom of the canvas the blues and purples begin to transform into greens and yellows. The painting itself is massive, and meant to be displayed with the other portions of the triptych so that the viewer could be fully enveloped into the watery landscape.
This is a familiar scene to us as Monet has painted over 250 different works of his backyard in Giverny, France. Each painting is different, and focuses on a distinct portion of his massive garden in each work. He also experimented with painting during different time of day, which is why much of his works from the series look vastly different. Monet focused on painting his outdoor garden for nearly the last 30 years of his life as cataracts were interfering with his vision. The garden itself was grown by Monet, himself, as well as several hired gardeners. Together they worked for years to control the garden in order to mimic a Japanese scene.
Today, these works in Monet’s Water Lilies series can be sold for more than $50 million and greatly contributed to not only the impressionism movement at the time, but also modern art.